Dr. Sharon Block is a professor of history at the University of California, Irvine who received her M.A./A.B. at the University of Pennsylvania and her Ph.D. at Princeton University. Her historical research has investigated the lives of non-traditional historical subjects in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
Block is the author of Rape and Sexual Power in Early America (UNC Press, 2006) which investigates how colonial men used their social, racial, and economic powers to coerce sex from women with relative impunity. Block’s work on eighteenth-century sexual violence continues to be meaningful in the #MeToo era. Her most recent book, Colonial Complexions: Race and Bodies in Eighteenth-Century America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018), explores how American colonists made racism seem natural through daily descriptions of physical appearance. Block has written numerous scholarly essays on sexuality, race, slavery, and women’s history, as well as digital humanities. In 2006, she was the first historian to apply new data mining technologies to historical sources. This led to multiple articles on colonial and women’s history, including data-mining 80,000 eighteenth-century newspaper articles and evaluating the place of women’s history in a half million abstracts of historical publications. She is also a co-editor of the textbook anthology, Major Problems in American Women’s History (Cengage 2013).
Block has also focused much of her academic career on diversity, equity and inclusion in higher education. She appeared in a 2002 New York Times article on the challenges of childbearing in academia with her first child while pregnant with her second. The two children she had on the tenure track are now both taller than she is.